What fun is playing your favorite game if you can’t blast your favorite tunes?
Today, Valve announced a pretty great new feature for its fledgling SteamOS and Big Picture interfaces: in-game music controls.
(Wondering what the heck “SteamOS” and “Big Picture” are? SteamOS is a Linux-based operating system Valve is building for a series of dedicated, living-room-friendly PCs they call “Steam Machines”. Big Picture mode is essentially SteamOS minus the OS, meant for people who want the new interface but already have Steam set up on their Windows/Mac/whatever PCs)
As it currently stands, switching up your music in the middle of a game (like a game of, say, Team Fortress 2) is a bit of a pain. You’ve got your standalone music player crankin’ away in one window, and your game running fullscreen in front of it. You can alt-tab from one to the other — but that takes ages, and tends to make most fullscreen games freak the hell out for a few seconds. Trying to change up your music queue in between spawns ain’t very easy if your monitor chokes up each time you switch in or out of a game.
This problem is made all the worse when you’ve got Big Picture mode running on a TV across the room. Most desktop music players, with their tiny fonts and itty-bitty buttons, aren’t meant to be controlled from more than a foot or two away.
With the new Steam Music features, your music is brought right into the Big Picture/SteamOS interface. You tell Steam where your music library is, and it’ll build a shiny new catalog for your perusal, complete with album art and artist photos. And once you’re in a game? Music controls are a keystroke away, having been integrated into the same Steam Overlay that lets you keep track of your friends and achievements without ever leaving your game.
Steam Music is currently in early Beta, with Valve rolling the feature out in waves to those who’ve opted-in. To opt in and hopefully get it early, join the Steam Music group over here.
The new music control features seem to be meant for Big Picture/SteamOS only at the moment, with Valve promising “desktop features soon to follow” — so if you’re using the good ol’ fashion Steam interface (as I imagine most keyboard/mouse gamers are) you might be waiting a bit longer than your Big-Picture-usin’ cohorts for in-game controls.